Dehydration can sneak up on you even when you are enjoying a quick walk in the rain. There’s more to what causes dehydration than just skipping water.
What is Dehydration?
Two-third content of the human body is made up of water. Water plays a major role in lubricating all the joints and bone surfaces, flushing the toxins out of the body, hydrating the skin, and facilitating proper digestion. Even a slight imbalance in the levels of water, salt, and sugar in the body can throw your health off track.
When you lose more fluids than you take in, the body doesn’t have substitute fluids to continue functioning normally. And if you don’t replenish yourself with the lost fluid in a short while you’d get dehydrated. Chronic dehydration over a prolonged period of time leads to a build-up of harmful toxins that would interfere with homeostasis, and regulation of temperature.
What Causes Dehydration?
There are many reasons why someone can get dehydrated. For instance:
- Running a 10 km stretch without training, being physically unfit, and not drinking enough fluids can push your body into dehydration.
- Intense physical exertion speeds up the loss of fluid through sweating, since it burns fats and calories.
- Some known causes of fluid loss include diarrhoea, vomiting, heat exposure, and fever.
- Some of the diuretics prescribed for diabetes trigger the loss of fluid through frequent urination.
- An impairment in the ability to chew or drink due to the presence of ulcer or any other tissue scarring the mouth can make them drink less water.
- Comatose patients get dehydrated due to heavy medication and the lack of water intake.
- People who engage in mountain climbing, trekking, and hiking high altitudes face high risk of dehydration.
- Athletes, the elderly, infants, and children are other groups that run the risk of dehydrating faster than others.
Patients who suffer from kidney disorders, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and adrenal gland disorders should take extra care to keep themselves hydrated.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of dehydration differ for each level of dehydration. For someone who has little to moderate level of fluid loss the symptoms would include tiredness, sleepiness, dry skin, headaches, no tears while crying, dark urine, and muscle cramps. Even minor symptoms like dry or sticky mouth or constipation can be a sign that you should drink water.
If you’re suffering from severe dehydration then you’d be thirsty and have sunken eyes, chronic dry skin, low blood pressure, or rapid heartbeat. This might sometimes even lead to losing consciousness.
Complications Caused By Dehydration
Dehydration, if not attended at the right time, can lead to irrevocable internal injuries. If you’ve been exerting yourself physically without replenishing with the right fluids, you run the risk of suffering from heat cramps, exhaustion, or heat stroke. Sometimes when you drink water after a prolonged period, the body compensates by pulling in excess water that can swell the different cells of the body. In some rare cases, the brain cells swell to such an extent that they rupture.
When your electrolyte composition isn’t balanced, the electrical transmission of messages via the neurons can get disrupted. This can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and a loss of consciousness. A severe case of dehydration can lead to a decreased volume of blood in the body that can prove fatal.
If your dehydration has led you to a serious illness, getting it treated can be a costly affair. Getting your hands on a health insurance for family and yourself will help you finance a major portion of your treatment and get you on the path of recovery quickly
Not all the drinks you take in keep you hydrated or are even all that healthy. There are lot of factors that influence fluid retention in your body and help you stay replenished. Generally, drinks that come with electrolytes and essential salts can be retained in the body for a while longer than diuretics like caffeine or alcohol.
Photo Courtesy: American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition
According to this, milk and orange stay longer in the body presumably due to their potassium, calcium, and vitamin content. Oral rehydration solutions with their high salt, calories, and other electrolyte content can help you recover from a bout of dehydration. Beverages that contain caffeine trigger stress response that creates a diuretic response in your body. On the other hand, the high sugar content raises blood sugar level to an unhealthy level. Both these reactions make the body want to flush out fluids in large quantity. The constant flushing of fluids can cause a pile up of toxins in the body.
If your lunch has high protein content, this can strain your body into excreting fluids to get rid of the excess nitrogen content. The same goes for salty and processed food to cleanse unnecessary salt and fat content. Some veggies have a compound called asparagine that has a diuretic influence on the body.
Foods That Help You Beat Dehydration
If the idea of drinking 3 litres of plain water is something which seems too boring you can experiment with different flavours. You can drink a smoothie before your meals, take a quick walk to the nearest coconut water stand, or get a detox juice delivered to your doorstep.
You can even replenish your fluid content by substituting everyday snacks with high content veggies or fruits. Cucumber, watermelons, celery, strawberries, radishes, tomatoes, or lettuce can come handy when you want to toss up a quick salad.
Can you avoid dehydration?
Yes, but it is not an easy task to remember to drink water every now and then. You can use an app or keep a reminder to drink water. Keep a 500 ml water bottle handy near your desk. You can also take a break from work every 30 mins to walk to the cooler and drink water. You could buy a mug or bottle with a straw arrangement and keep sipping whenever you feel like.
Freeze the salads or use low-calorie dressings so that you get a change from the mundane. When you’re at home, you can refrigerate a large pitcher of water. Add cucumber, berries, limes, strawberries, or any other fruit you want in the water to add a healthy kick to it.
If you live in a warm climate, make sure you carry a bottle of water with you all the time.
Dehydration can be dangerous if not detected and managed in the early stages. These health tips can help you keep yourself hydrated and steer clear of dehydration.